Calgary outreach program connects with seniors virtually, records 'legacy stories'

WATCH: Storytelling Alberta launched a virtual outreach program in Calgary last year that focuses on connecting seniors with storytellers and technology. Tiffany Lizée explains.

Storytelling Alberta launched a virtual outreach program in Calgary last year that focuses on connecting seniors with storytellers and technology.

The program is called StoryShare For Seniors and since launching the program in October 2020, Doreen Vanderstoop, the president of Storytelling Alberta, says it’s been a hit with seniors.

“Connecting through story is such a powerful, powerful thing because if somebody tells you one story from their life history, you already know them so much better,” Vanderstoop said.

The outreach program has a variety of free options for Calgarians 65 years of age and older:

  • An individual chat, where a storyteller can share a story with the senior over video call or the senior can tell an anecdote from their lived history
  • A group chat, where a storyteller hosts a virtual sharing circle where seniors can tell a story or listen to others share theirs
  • A legacy recording, where the senior records their own story and has it posted online

“It’s one of the great hallmarks of this project — is to show value for the elders in our community,” Vanderstoop said.

“This is to show them that we care about what they’ve experienced in their lives.”

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Elaine Montgomery was one of the first to jump on board Storyshare For Seniors, which encourages our older generation to tell their stories while embracing the virtual world.

She said she finds that people often underestimate seniors, which can be frustrating.

“Everybody assumes because you are of a certain age, that you can’t learn anymore and I think that’s just silly,” Montgomery said.

Since joining the program and recording her legacy video, she now volunteers her time helping other seniors tackle technology.

Community volunteers are also involved in virtual meetings to offer any kind of extra support the senior may need.

“I mean the whole program is so important from a social perspective and addressing… the isolation that someone might feel,” community volunteer Jonas Cornelsen said.

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Cornelsen added he’s able to help connect seniors with information — like finding grocery delivery services — but most importantly, they are there to listen.

“For me, just to be a listening presence and somebody who can just confirm that someone’s being listened to, that someone is cared about,” Cornelsen said.

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StoryShare For Seniors is also offered in other languages, including French, Spanish, Urdu and Dutch. The program has five iPads available that they can lend out to clients.

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